The word “Ba”, or number eight, in the Ba Duan Jin not only means eight sections, but it also means that there are a variety of elements in the practicing Ba Duan Jin. Gao Qian, who wrote in the Ming Dynasty remarks that one should, “practice Ba Duan Jin in the early morning, [as] it will absorb the essence of the heaven and the earth. Following the rules of nature, [this] time for practice perfectly matches with the biological clock.”
Ba Duan Jin has been practiced since the North Song Dynasty and it had two versions: sitting and standing. Because the standing posture of Ba Duan Jin is easier for practicing, it has won the ever-increasing popularity over the ages. The standing routine of Ba Duan Jin had been repeatedly refined and modified, and accepted by a growing number of the populace. At the end of Qing Dynasty, the name of Ba Duan Jin was at the first used and a chart illustrating the routine was first developed.
The Ba Duan Jin complete routine is comprised of the following eight stages: “One: Holding the Hands High with Palms Up – Regulate the Internal Organs. Two: Posing as an Archer Shooting Both Left-and-Right-Handed. Three: Holding One Arm Aloft – Regulate the Functions of the Spleen and Stomach. Four: Looking Backwards – Prevent Sickness and Strain. Five: Swinging the Head and Lowering the Body – Relieve Stress. Six: Moving the Hands down the Back and Legs and Touching the Feet – Strengthen the Kidneys. Seven: Thrusting Fists and Making the Eyes Glare – Enhance Strength. Eight: Raising and Lowering the Heels – Cure Diseases.” Since then, this traditional version Ba Duan Jin has been fixed and remains the same to this day.
Concerning the origin of Ba Duan Jin, there is no consensus on its exact founder and the time of its exact formation. But general academic consensus is that the traditional form of Ba Duan Jin originated earlier than the Song Dynasty and is been substantially developed during the Ming and Qing Dynasties.